Turnout for Mail-in Primaries Not So Hot in California


The June 3 stealth primary, stripped as it was of its presidential component, didn’t even attract 20 % of eligible California voters, but it did set a turnout record in one area: Vote by mail balloting. For the first time ever, more than half the voters did their civic duty by mail. See Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s announcement, in pdf, here.

There are all kinds of implications. Voting by mail means voting early, which in turn means that all the late campaign mail, letters to the editor, blogging etc. came too late for 58.71% of voters. There seem to be two schools of thought among political consultants trying to figure out how to respond: Don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal, this was an unusual election; or, Target your voters better and earlier, and rely less on late-campaign mail.

Some election reformers like the trend to more mail voting, and in fact Los Angeles voters may be asked, before too many more elections go by, to adopt a law mandating mail-only elections.

One problem. Although Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous election jurisdiction, and although Californians seem to be leaning more and more toward voting by mail, L.A. County was a huge outlier in June. Only 38.92% of voters here went to the mailbox instead of the ballot box. You can figure that a majority of those who are going old-school — going to the polling place on voting day — are Democrats, because most of the county’s voters are Dems, and because stats generally show that the older, whiter and more conservative a voter, the more likely he or she is to vote by mail. So it stands to reason that Republicans would promote more vote-by-mail and more Democrats would resist it.

Voting-By Mail is not the panacea that a lot of Democrats have been convinced that it is. In fact, the Democrats seem to be driving the Voting-By Mail agenda nationally.


Should the dead be voting?


“If you vote by mail, but die before Election Day, does your vote count? It depends on where you lived.”

What to expect in the 2008 election…

Ok, so here’s my prediction. At least from a Vote-By Mail perspective, I expect these trends to continue:

  1. Longer and longer vote counts. When elections are conducted by mail it takes more like a month to collect, sort and count ballots than the previous 1 to 2 days that it used to take.
  2. Cases of granny farming will increase in Vote-By Mail, no-reason, or no-excuse absentee voting. Why? Because when you vote-by mail, you take away the secret ballot, and thereby make coercion easier. Therefore the incidences of voter coercion will increase.
  3. Votes will be lost in the mail.

Many other trends in voting problems, caused directly by switching away from precinct based pollsites and to voting by post, will also increase. See here, and here for more information.

As for the states to watch, of course Washington tops the list. But Montana has also had some fun problems… and there’s so many other states that have relaxed their absentee voting requirements, that I expect that up to 20 states will report problems with their absentee voting integrity (or lack thereof).

For instance, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Police recently put out this report.